By Melissa Robert
If American Express’s slogan is, “Don’t leave home without it”, then San Francisco’s should be, “For fine drinks and cuisine, bring the green”. It is absolutely common-place to see that dreaded CASH ONLY sign in windows and above registers at establishments across the city. I’m sure the native San Franciscans are completely accustomed to stopping at the ATM or selecting the cash back option at the register while checking out at Safeway. But, if you’re new here or just passing through, you are most likely wondering why small businesses are resistant to plastic. There are a few reasons why cash is king when it comes to SMB payment options in the Bay Area.
I’m sure you could easily guess the first, cost. It’s no surprise that the margins of profitability are slim for industries in which small businesses thrive. Many owners simply feel that card processing fees are too high to justify the added convenience to customers. In truth, debit, credit, and gift cards can cost anywhere from less than 1% to around 3%, but then there are fees. The fees for accepting plastic can be monthly or per transaction. Secondly, merchants and processing companies are required to report all credit card sales to the government. This can be perceived as a headache by many businesses that are more concerned with ordering supplies, managing employees, and daily operations.
Lastly, when does a $25.00 transaction cost a mom & pop shop $50.00 or more? The really pricey side of cashless payments is the risk of chargebacks. When a cardholder disputes a transaction the merchant must pay a fee which may or may not be refunded if the dispute is ruled in favor of the merchant. These fees can run anywhere from $15.00 – $35.00. Chargebacks can be filed for a number of reasons; lost/stolen card, suspected fraud, non-receipt of good/services, unsatisfactory product, and the list goes on. The sad truth is that there are card holders that genuinely never intend on paying for their purchase. This trend causes small business owners to be weary, and depending on the industry, rightfully so.
So now that you know the good, the bad and the ugly of card transactions, it’s easy to agree that there are still plenty of businesses that are worth the pit stop to carry cash. In a city full of cash only businesses, you’ll also be happy to know that there are many, many ATM’s – many located inside or right by places afflicted by credit-card-a-phobia. Here are a few of the memorable cash-happy spots I’ve visited as of late.
Bender’s Bar & Grill in the Mission, located off S. Van Ness and 19th, is the perfect spot to shoot some pool, grab a brew and a bite. The menu includes battered artichoke hearts, sandwiches, and tacos a la carte. If this is your starting point for an evening of drinks then might I suggest the “The Great American Trailer Trash Grilled Mac N’ Cheese Sando”. Indeed, it is as indulgent and delicious as it sounds. The hot dogs and jalapeno potato chips inside every bite will give you the texture and heat your little heart desires. Check out their Facebook to see the schedule for live shows on the weekends, the music will give your friends something to listen to while you chew.
With over 40 beers on tap and an ATM on premise, it’s easy to see why Zeitgeist SF makes the short list. The ample seating with picnic tables in a large outdoor space appeals to my native Texan senses. Lucky you, you’re in SF, so the weather permits this patio area to draw crowds without fear of 106 degree summers. Yes, there is also a small menu from the grill and liquor is available as well. If day drinking is your thing, we won’t define the time of day, the bloody mary is a winning choice. And you know what they say, liquor before beer and you’re… getting close to creating a pattern of going back to liquor. Or, however that saying goes.
If you’re in the Pacific Heights area and looking for a cool pregame spot before shaking what your mama gave you, check out Lion Pub. This bar features a large drink menu and fresh squeezed juices supplied right before your eyes by the bartender of your choosing. Popular drinks include the greyhound, a wide array of margaritas, or give the cantaloupe and passion fruit mojito a try. The bar and seating area might seem crowded but the upbeat music will put you in the mood to dance, and when you make it up to the bar, why not order a double? Oh, and they too have an ATM on site with many patrons making return visits.
Helpful Hint: Just because your bank advertises no-fee ATM usage on your debit cards does not always mean it’s completely free. Ask a branch representative about surcharge reimbursements or research other banks, credit unions, and ATM networks that offer truly free ATM usage.